Erick Erickson, a man who would have you believe that he is just your typical, fed-up American, put together a website called We Are the 53% in response to the We Are the 99% and Occupy Wall Street movements. We Are the 53% refers to the 47% of American entities who pay no income tax in this country. This group of lazy, uncreative, freeloaders include those in the low-, and middle-income brackets, the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed, Bank of America, General Electric, ExxonMobil, and Citigroup.
Under the umbrella of We Are the 53%, Erickson mocks the millions of Americans who are struggling financially with an audacious letter detailing his own tale of woe:
Erickson is the perfect face for the We Are the 53% movement with his statements of incomplete information that run about 53% true.
Breaking down Erickson's letter:
• I work 3 jobs.
His 3 jobs are: Blogger for redstate.org , CNN television personality, and WSB radio host (A post previously held by Herman Cain, who took home a tidy $165K/year in that position.)
Erickson has a pretty lucrative workweek of 20 or so hours there. If I were in his position, I'd work those 3 jobs, too. I'd probably even pick up a weekend shift at CNN just to make it a full, backbreaking 25 hours workweek.
• I have a house I can't sell.
Which house is he talking about? According to Lee Fang of thinkprogress.org, he was referring to his first home and not his recently-purchased second home.
• I am the 53% subsidizing you so you can hang out on Wall Street and complain.
Here, he deliberately ignores the protestors who do have jobs and therefore renders his statement completely irrelevant. Let's also remember that the group he believes he is "subsidizing" includes non-taxpaying entities like, say it with me: "Bank of America, General Electric, Exxon Mobil, and Citigroup."
There is no problem with Erickson being a successful individual. However, there is a problem in Erick Erickson making a mockery of the financial hardship of millions of Americans. Erick Erickson is making a mockery of the 6.2 million Americans who have been unemployed for 6 months or more (the highest rate since The Great Depression). Erick Erickson is making a mockery of those who lost tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars from their retirement funds.
Most disturbing is the fact that Erick Erickson is making a mockery of the typical American's intelligence. This malicious attempt to aggressively manipulate public opinion is deliberately misleading and offensively condescending.
Regardless of what tax bracket we are in, I think we can all agree that it is morally reprehensible that our government allows the aforementioned corporations to reap record profits and pay no income taxes into the American system.
Regardless of what tax bracket we are in, I think we can all agree that it is morally reprehensible that the social cost of corporate negligence is passed on to taxpayers in the form of receding local economies, rising unemployment, declining public school funding, crumbling infrastructure, and reductions in police and fire department services.
Regardless of what tax bracket we are in, I think we can all agree that it is morally reprehensible that the current financial system is structured to allow easy purchase of, and control over, our elected officials.
I think we can also agree that these beliefs form the foundation of the We Are the 99% movement.
Let's take a look at a few of the other stories shown on the We Are the 53% website.
One letter states:
1998 - Took an entry level job at local bank and worked my way up to Assistant Vice President.
That is very impressive. Stories like this can inspire those who are struggling today with unemployment or underemployment. This person, along with the rest of the 99%, also helped to pay for the bailout of the banking industry.
I think several people in the banking industry would agree that our system wherein negligent financial institutions must be regularly bailed out with taxpayer money is unsustainable. This would be a shared sentiment with the We Are the 99% movement.
Here is an excerpt from a different letter:
I pay my bills & repay my loans.
The government owes me nothing but my SS payments back.
Agreed. We Are the 99% isn't about the government owing anyone anything.
We Are the 99% is about the top 1 percent owning 40 percent of all of the wealth in this country. It's about asking this 1 percent to pay a share of taxes that is commensurate with the amount demanded from lower-, middle-, and upper-class families in America. It's about asking for the dissolution of the disproportionate amount of control this 1 percent wields in our government.
Surely, as Americans, we can all agree on these principles.
(Also, by recent accounts, the government is going to run out of social security by the year 2037. So you might not even get back what the government does owe you. There is no reason to wait until those funds have evaporated before addressing the problems with our system.)
I think everyone should check out this next letter specifically, because the story here is quite amazing, and very inspiring. It's a defining snapshot of overcoming adversity to become successful in America.
A few excerpts:
I was the first in my family to graduate from college.
(Hey, me too!)
I earned a scholarship and paid for the rest in loans (that no one signed for.)
We have made it by ourselves. No one owes us anything!
I couldn't agree with you more, and again, We Are the 99% isn't about the government owing you anything... except funded roads, schools, food health standards, police and fire departments, national defense, stoplights... you get the idea. These things take money, and our nation should be focused on funding these items rather than propping up a dangerously brazen and irresponsible financial sector.
When discussing the We Are the 99% or Occupy Wall Street movements, no one I've talked to has brought up the notion of being "owed" anything. However, I do see corporate-supported media adopting that type of rhetoric. These mainstream media outlets know they have a lot to lose if they can't manipulate the American public into fighting to protect their interests.
From another letter:
I would be tired of hearing that, too. Who is telling you this? Whoever that is, I would never listen to them again. Ever.
If anyone here is entitled to more, it's YOU. If all corporations paid a fair share of taxes, there might even be a reasonable tax cut for you. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, it sounds like you'd probably be happy with General Electric simply not receiving a $3.2 billion tax rebate on the $5.1 billion they made in the United States. Yes, they paid no income tax largely because they actually received a 60 percent tax break in 2010. Barack Obama's 2008 Presidential Campaign received over $500,000 from General Electric. Not a bad return on their investment.
Anyone else here get a 60 percent tax benefit on their annual income? Anyone in the 99% get 60 percent? Anyone in the 53% get 60 percent? You guys are closer numerically, so I thought maybe... no?
Does anyone here believe that if GE makes $5.1 billion in the United States that they should pay taxes on them? You can be in the 53% as well as the 99% and agree on this one.
If we need a little more information on how dangerous corporate ties to our politicians are, let's not forget that the top 11 contributors to George W. Bush's 2004 campaign were all finance, banking, or accounting firms. (Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, PricewaterhouseCoopers, UBS AG, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, MBNA Corp, Credit Suisse Group, Citigroup Inc, Bear Stearns, and Ernst & Young.) We can all agree that there is a likely causal link between those contributions and the blind eye these companies received from the Bush administration leading up to the crash of 2008.
I have no doubts that these letters on We Are the 53% are real, however, I do question what they are in response to, as well as what they are being used for. Looking over the website, it's clear that an inordinate number of people are under the impression that showing solidarity with the We Are the 99% movement is akin to pickpocketing working Americans in order to fund a drum circle of the voluntarily unemployed. The inanity of this impression is beautifully illustrated in this un-aired FOX News interview with protestor Jesse LaGreca.
Josh Trevino, who helped Erickson develop We Are the 53%, added to this nonsense by saying "... we are in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, but nonetheless, the same American values are really the way out of it. On a more visceral level, there's always going to be a reaction against the hippies."
Now, I actually agree with the first part of his statement... but "hippies"? Apparently, We Are the 53% is based on maxims appropriate for a junior high school election campaign. (PS, I am so all for repealing the Cooties Health Reform Act.)
We Are the 99% is not a conspiratorial faction of dirty, anti-establishment "hippies" protesting in over 1200 cities across the globe. Does it take a "hippie" to think that corporations need to be held accountable for reckless actions that have devastating consequences on the national economy? Does it take a "hippie" to think that Warren Buffet should pay more in taxes than his secretary? And what should I do if I find a "hippie" hiding under my bed?
It doesn't take a radical to see that corporations gleefully took billion-dollar risks in an unregulated capitalist market and then demanded a taxpayer-funded socialist bailout.
Trevino also noted that "paying taxes is the responsible thing to do..." I hope he would apply that reasoning to workers, homeowners, Bank of America, and ExxonMobil alike.
Our citizens must not be manipulated into thinking that being employed separates one from those actively working for social change. This is not a battle of Workers v. Freeloaders. This movement goes far beyond the dismissive portrait of a bunch of lazy Marxist bums who would rather shoot heroin into their eyeballs than fill out a job application. The movement is organized enough to have an effective legal team, after all.
If We Are the 53% is an honest movement borne from the voice of hard-working Americans, then I hope it can stick to its ideals. However, if We Are the 53% is a mouthpiece for corporate influence shamelessly manipulating the voice of hard-working Americans, then I hope it can stick its ideals up its ass.
Regardless, we all (the 53% and the 99%) agree that, as Trevino said, it is responsible to pay taxes. Therefore, it would be responsible for the top 1% to pay a relative share of their income equivalent to what middle-class Americans pay. We all agree that it would be responsible for corporations who profit from business in America to pay into our system with income taxes.
Since we all agree on these issues, let's unite rather than wasting time engaging in Erickson and Trevino's divisive carnival show. Let me be the first to extend a hand and welcome the 53% into the 99%.
It only makes sense... even beyond the math.
Follow Edward Murray on Twitter: www.twitter.com/WeCanBeatEczema